The Real Housewives of New Jersey
Last week, RHONJ delivered receipts more substantial than the 18-foot snarl of ExtraCare coupons the CVS register pukes out every time you so much as glance at a box of orange Tic Tacs. And yet the aftermath of Jersey’s own Zapruder film—in which we witnessed Teresa tell Danielle to pull Margaret’s hair—is even more wild. How lucky we are to watch history unfold before us. (And for the record, I sure hope Steven Two First Names Dann refunded however much he charged Margaret’s bank card for the fancy-pants candle he personally instructed Danielle to break.)
Back at the house—where, good news, Bill is still alive—Melissa pulls the group aside from Dolores’ party to debrief them on Danielle’s accusation. Their reactions feel like they happen in slow motion. Baffled, the Marges Jr. and Sr. turn to look at each other at exactly the same moment, with the flawless timing of a vaudeville comedy duo. Dolores shakes her head convulsively. Jen stares at Teresa without moving a muscle, like all the blood in her body has been diverted to her lash extensions. Joe Gorga, his eyes wide, knows better than to participate in literally any way.
Margaret loudly, immediately expresses her disbelief: Teresa (who, wearing two bedazzled “LOVE” barrettes, has apparently contracted Dorit Kemsley’s taste in hair accessories) would never do that! Not ever! After an interminable pause, Teresa issues a real clunker of a non-denial: “I was drinking and everything happened so fast, so.”
Marge looks like she might vomit. “You’re a real fucking asshole,” she tells Teresa. After Tre’s mind-boggling insistence on rushing to Danielle’s defense, again and again, despite the fervent disapproval of every sane person in her life, “she just threw you in front of the bus in front of the whole fucking world.”
This scene is evidence that, contrary to seasons of evidence we’ve accumulated, Tre is capable of feeling guilt—or at least of feeling embarrassment. Not even Dolores is on her side, for once.
“I feel bad,” Tre says, “I hope they don’t use this.”
The they in question are the show’s producers—and as Melissa informs her sister-in-law, and as we already know, given we are watching the episode, hello, how are you, they’re going to use this. A fourth-wall-breaking shot pulls out to reveal the four camera guys shooting the group. Tre immediately displays a French-manicured middle finger to a camera, throws her drink at the lens (though it mostly hits Dolores), and smashes cups off the nearest table.
In a shaky handheld-camera pursuit that feels straight out of Cops, we watch her run into the house, call the producers “fucking assholes,” rip her heels off, slam her bedroom door, and threaten to call what would sure be one hell of an expensive Uber home.
It is insane—and frankly, kind of cathartic—to see Teresa, who gets the most most-favored-nation treatment of any OG I can think of, finally answer for her otherwise universally excused misbehavior. At the hands of the producers themselves, no less!
After Jen, Dolores, and Melissa negotiate Tre (her own hostage) back out into society, she calls to break up with the former cast member formerly known as Beverly, who sure gave herself one hell of a viking funeral from the franchise, you have to grant her that.
Friendship ended with Danielle. Now Margaret is Teresa’s best friend.
If Margaret will have her, that is. Teresa does her best to apologize, explaining, “I don’t want you to think I would tell her to hurt you in any way.”
“But you did tell her to hurt me,” Margaret notes, correctly. She also notes, also correctly, that her first instinct had been to insist on Teresa’s innocence, to protect her—as always. Now, Marge is going to need some time to process. She leaves Teresa and her Hawaiian Tropic cleavage to sway forlornly in a rocking chair on the porch for the rest of the night.
The season finale effectively ends here, but not before we’re treated to a hilariously dramatic shot of a Solo cup at the bottom of the backyard pool. At least Marty got to stay dry this year.
We zoom forward to five months later—Joe has been released from ICE custody and is continuing to appeal his deportation from Italy (where he remains, in time and space as we know it). Teresa and the girls fly in for a weekend visit.
I am not exactly overflowing with affection for Joe Giudice, but watching his girls sprint up to their much-missed father and embrace him makes me cry, because I am a human being with functioning tear ducts. This lights up the same lobe of my brain that is utterly powerless against soldier-dog reunion videos.
But Joe and Teresa’s marriage is dissolving before our eyes, to riveting effect. Once their children have gone to bed, they share a wrenching, surreally hilarious scene study that is equal parts Tennessee Williams and A Night With My Ex:
JOE: “I need to go back up to the house and grab my things.”
TERESA: “Are you sleeping here tonight? Huh?”
JOE: “I don’t know.”
TERESA: “Do you want to st—stay with the girls?”
JOE: “Uh, the beds are little.”
TERESA: “I mean… Were you expecting to sleep with me?”
JOE: “I mean… we’ve got 20 years in, our marriage.”
Teresa gently kicks him out. The next morning, the family takes a day trip to the Amalfi Coast. On a charm offensive, Joe compliments Teresa’s curves, rubs her shoulders, and talks about taking her on a romantic getaway to Monte Carlo. She refuses to reciprocate.
That night, she and Joe sit down for a long-overdue Grownup Talk. Teresa Giudice is not famously gifted at expressing her feelings, but I give her a lot of credit for how she conducts herself here—particularly in the face of her husband’s deflection and passive aggression.
He thinks they can have a long-distance relationship. They can meet up and have fun together. But she wants an every-day husband, not just a vacation buddy. Rather than look at his wife, Joe stares into his wine glass, which he swirls, hard, for what feels like several uninterrupted minutes, like he’s trying to hypnotize himself into the Italian version of Sunken Place (scusi, posto sommerso). “That’s what you’re supposed to do when you drink wine,” he protests unconvincingly when Tre calls him out on it.
She confronts him about the resentment and distrust she feels toward him, after he’s hurt her again and again. “You marry somebody they’re supposed to protect you,” she says.
It’s doubtful, but maybe, in this moment, there was a chance Joe could have saved his marriage. He could have taken responsibility for his actions. He could have apologized. He could have told her he understands how she feels. He could have promised to do better.
Instead, he asks her if she’s out of her mind. The past is in the past, and besides, “my crime was a bogus crime.” If you had told me 15 minutes ago I’d feel this sympathetic toward Teresa—let’s just say I can relate to Margaret’s whiplash.
“Do you just want to end it now?” Joe asks.
“Do you want me to lie to you?” she answers. She’s a different person now, even if he isn’t.
They hug goodbye. It’s time to move on.